Cameron Brate had his rise through football capped with a Super Bowl win. Learn more about this former Naperville Central’s journey in this Where Are They Now, presented by Molly Maid of Aurora Naperville Area.
If there is one guarantee we can make on Naperville Sports Weekly, it’s this: Win a Lombardi Trophy and you are getting a Where Are They Now? After former Naperville Central quarterback turned NFL tight end Owen Daniels won his Super Bowl ring with the Denver Broncos following the 2015 season, we now turn our attention to another former Redhawk turned NFL Champ, Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Cameron Brate.
A 2010 graduate from Central, head football coach Mike Stine realized early in his career that Brate had the necessary tools to be a special player.
Brate was an All-Conference, All-Area and special mention All-State player at tight end, in addition to playing varsity basketball for two years and varsity baseball for one. But it was his success in the classroom that guided the next step of his journey. A National Honors Society member and a two time Academic All-State selection helped open the doors to the Ivy League as Brate went on to play collegiately at Harvard University.
While playing for the Crimson from 2011-2013, Brate earned first team All Ivy League honors twice, catching 91 passes for 18 touchdowns over his three seasons.
It’s not easy to make it to the NFL from the Ivy League, but Brate’s 6’5 frame and obvious athleticism led to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signing Cam as an undrafted free agent in 2014.
After only catching one pass in his rookie season, Brate eventually had his breakout in 2016. The former Redhawk caught 57 passes for 660 yards and 8 touchdowns. Heading into the 2018 season, Brate’s consistent performance earned him a six-year 40 million dollar contract to stay with the Buccaneers.
However not everything was always smooth sailing down in the Bay. Tampa drafted tight end O.J. Howard in 2017, which cut into Cam’s playing time. The team also struggled on the field throughout his first six seasons, leading to the firing of head coach Lovie Smith in 2015 and his successor Dirk Koetter in 2018.
In the spring before the 2020 season, Tampa Bay shocked the football world by signing legendary quarterback Tom Brady and future Hall of Fame tight end Rob Gronkowski. Some wondered if the tight end position had gotten too crowded, but Brate’s work ethic, attitude and performance impressed head coach Bruce Arians and his new QB. Something that did not surprise his former high school coach.
Despite lower than average receiving numbers, Cam Brate remained a vital cog in the Buccaneers offense this season. After making it to the playoffs for the first time in his career, Brate caught 11 passes in his first three post season games including a ten yard touchdown in a 31-26 NFC Championship game win over the Green Bay Packers.
Super Bowl Glory
A lifetime of hard work culminated for the Naperville native when the Tampa Bay Bucs defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 31-9 to win Super Bowl XLV. Brate was his usual reliable self, catching three Tom Brady passes for 29 yards in the victory. Although his most impressive catch may have been at the victory boat parade, when Brate saved the Lombardi Trophy from a watery grave.
Despite taking a road less traveled from Naperville Central to Harvard to the NFL, Cameron Brate never stopped working on the field or in the classroom to achieve the highest goal in the game of football.
For Naperville Sports Weekly, I’m Justin Cornwell.
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